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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02574

What’s Weight Got to Do with It? Mental Health Trainees’ Perceptions of a Client with Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms

  • 1Nova Southeastern University, United States

This study examined the effect of client body mass index (BMI) on diagnostic impressions and perceptions of mental health trainees. Participants read a vignette of a mock female client presenting for treatment with symptoms of anorexia nervosa. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions in which the client was described as “underweight,” “normal weight,” or “overweight.” Results revealed that participants assigned to the “underweight” condition diagnosed the client with anorexia nervosa or atypical anorexia nervosa more frequently than participants assigned to the “overweight” or “normal weight” conditions. There was no difference based on client BMI when the more general diagnosis of other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED; previously known as eating disorder not otherwise specified [EDNOS]) was included, however. Participants in the “overweight” and “normal weight” conditions recommended fewer therapy sessions for the client than participants in the “underweight” condition. Furthermore, participants more strongly endorsed weight-based stereotypes to describe the client when she was “overweight” than “normal weight” or “underweight.” Contrary to hypotheses, however, participants reported moderately positive attitudes toward treating the client regardless of BMI. These preliminary findings support initiatives aimed at providing training on weight stigma and eating disorders to mental health professionals.

Keywords: Weight Stigma, Eating Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa, Mental healthcare, weight stereotypes

Received: 05 Sep 2018; Accepted: 30 Nov 2018.

Edited by:

Antonios Dakanalis, MD, PsyD, PhD, Università degli studi di Milano Bicocca, Italy

Reviewed by:

Lucy Serpell, University College London, United Kingdom
Rebecca Pearl, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, United States
Leslie K. Anderson, University of California, San Diego, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Veillette, Serrano and Brochu. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Paula M. Brochu, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, 33314, Florida, United States,